TED Talks Every Writer Should Watch: Elizabeth Gilbert “Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating”

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TED talks are “ideas worth spreading” in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design. In this five-part series, Nicole Bell shares TED talks every writer should watch. Part one featured Elizabeth Gilbert on Your Elusive Genius, part two featured Andrew Stanton’s talk, Clues to a Great Story, part three featured Brené Brown on The Power of Vulnerability and last week Mac Barnett presented Why a Good Book is a Secret Door.

I began my TED Talks series with the genius of Elizabeth Gilbert, so I find it fitting to conclude the series with her, as well. This Talk was given a little over a year ago—April 2014 to be exact—and thus Gilbert has had time to react fully to her success from Eat. Pray. Love. So, what happens after being flung into the international spotlight of fame and success beyond your wildest dreams? What’s next?


To unpublished authors, this Talk of Gilbert’s may sound a bit selfish. She’s complaining about having success? Well, yes—that’s her point. She says, “I had to find a way to make sure that my creativity survived its own success.” This success left her wondering what was next—could she pull off another Eat. Pray. Love. again? Gilbert was smart enough to know that her next book would not be as well received as her previous work. What I find astonishing is how she overcame the anxiety she felt through the publication of her next book—she continued to write. The very thing that had brought her fame—writing—had then ripped her down; yet, she returned to it to build herself back up.


She attributes her return to writing to the fact that writing is her home. According to her, “Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself.” As Christians, we find our home in Christ and His saving grace. Thank goodness our home is not in our own strength or willpower—we’d fail before we even started! It is through His strength and fortification that we can find something on earth to be our temporary home (haven’t we all heard that before?). For Gilbert and many other writers, this temporal home indeed is writing. Gilbert asserts, “The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it.” Build our house, eh? That does sound like something we’ve all heard before.


Matthew 7:24-25 (ESV) “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”


If we are founded on Christ, we can survive anything—even our own success. Too many times newspapers and magazines are filled with stories of once-successful individuals who let the spotlight go to their heads and ruin their lives. Though Gilbert may not have “gone off the deep end” after her success, she found herself in an equally dangerous place of insecurity in her identity. She describes, “The only thing that [you are] capable of feeling is the absolute value of this emotional equation, the exact distance that you have been flung from yourself.” If we remain true to ourselves as children of God, we can survive absolutely anything—even our own success. In Gilbert’s words, “I will always be safe from the random hurricanes of outcome as long as I never forget where I rightfully live.” We live in the hands of a mighty and gracious God, from whom our creativity and drive to write flow. Soli deo Gloria.